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Authors: Mary Lide

Ann of Cambray

BOOK: Ann of Cambray
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‘My lords,’ I said, ‘I am come to demand justice.’

No one moved.

‘Justice,’ I cried again, and then louder, in my own tongue, ‘Vengeance. Against murder and betrayal. To me, Cambray.’

It was the battle cry of my house. Behind me in the Hall I heard one faint echo: well then, there was one man at least to back me. They were all on their feet now, the women-folk agape, the lords at the High Table starting. Lord Guy was repeating my name, ‘Ann of Cambray. ’Tis Ann of Cambray herself.’

’Who is with me?’ I cried again, not turning although I could hear the guards pounding up the Hall, and the rasp of their weapons. ‘Who stands by me?’

Ann of Cambray



London and Sydney

First published in Great Britain by Sphere Books Ltd 1985 30-32 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8JL Copyright © 1984 by Mary Lide Reprinted 1985

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Set in Sabon

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading

To David R. Lide with love

Table of Contents

I, Urien of Wales, Bard to the Celts, high poet of the old people, record these things. Out of a long silence do I write them, not in my own tongue, but in priestly fashion of the Norman courts, as I learned it ages since so that men who come hereafter should read and remember. It is for the Lady Ann of Cambray that I speak. At her bidding I write, in quiet times, in the long, still days of autumn when the weather here at Cambray lingers on as if in summer. The Lady Ann sits beside me, her tapestry untouched in her lap, the only sounds that disturb us are the cooing of the doves in their cote above the main castle gate and the distant surges of the sea. Old I am as men count years, and she—but she is timeless, to my eyes unchanged as when I first saw her, when I, a child, watched her return to Cambray. Quiet breathes around us, and all the fret and toss of those distant times has sunk to dust, to death. Yet there are moments in the night, or even at the close of day when the sunlight sinks fitfully on the floor of the Great Hall of Cambray, that I sense she is tense with listening, waits for the cries of attack across the moors behind us, hears the call to arms and the rasp of steel. Even now, I know she does not think this peace will last and takes each placid lovely day as a gift from God

‘I am a child of war,’ she told me once, ‘born in a fateful year when started all those wars that were to plague us nigh on twenty years. Child of war, of woe . . .’ I soothe her then, hold her hand gentle in my own, I who have served her and the Lords of Cambray all my days. Yet I cannot deny it is a strange sad story we shall tell, she and I together, of love and hate and treachery. And honour, bright as steel and as deadly. Well then, we must speak of these things. But first I must tell you how these wars, these civil wars that cast their shadows over the whole land, began, for we must endure them to the end, whatever that end may be. Sometimes it seems to me that as time passes, the circle of events grows larger, spreads farther, like ripples from a stone thrown in a mountain lake. In ever-widening arcs do they stretch out beyond our sight, out of the past into a future we cannot guess at. Lord Raoul of Sedgemont told my lady once, in his jesting way that did not hide the import of his words nor his fierce defence of things he held most dear, ‘Anything that the great do has effect on everyone.’ I would amend his words. I believe that there is nothing that any of us does that does not have some effect at last, that does not come back upon some distant shore. If we be not there to witness, that does not mean it will not happen or has not already happened somewhere without us.

In truth then, the Lady Ann was born in a fateful year, six months after the death of that great king of England, Henry, first of his name, after whose death began the civil wars to win his crown. She was born at Cambray. It is a small honour of rough land, rough pasture except for sheep, set along the southwestern sea. There her father, Falk of Cambray, had cleared the land, put peasant folk to till and reap until the yield in crops and herds was sufficient for his needs. A rough tenacious man was this Falk, a landless Norman knight, second son to a small holding in France, having nothing to commend him but his sword and wits. A soldier of fortune, Falk fought when his lord bid him and, in peacetime, followed the tourneys in France to have his living. Come then to middle life he had expected nothing, would have served as knight to his overlord and landless remained all his days at a time when land could only be won by inheritance or marriage. Against all hopes he became a vassal in England of his great overlord and friend, the Earl Raymond of Sedgemont, in return for this gift of land called Cambray.

From his father’s holdings in France he brought back horses that he raised up, the famous greys of Cambray, and there he built a castle, of stone in Norman style, not common in his day and stronger by far than any others along the borderlands, for they were mostly made of wood.

An honest man was Falk, they say, honest master, faithful vassal. Hard, not easily swayed, taking little pleasure in women’s company. He kept himself and his men ready to put down any dispute and hold the border between the Celts to the west and the Normans to the east—no easy task, and I, a Celt myself, will tell you so. And then one day he came back from his border raids with a wife, a Celt, one of their highborn ladies, so it is said. She bore him a son, and gave him a Celtic name for a Celtic prince, Talisin. And ten years later bore a daughter, Ann. Who was her death.

A lonely man then was Falk, dour and unsmiling. His daughter, Lady Ann, remembered him so through all her childhood years. Little she knew of him and even less of his lady wife. Lady Ann will tell you herself that long it was before she heard men speak of that Celtic princess or heard her story. And longer still before she understood her father’s grief. For he turned away from her, his second child, almost as if he blamed her that she was born and lived, so strongly had he loved his Celtic wife, so closely did the Lady Ann resemble her dead mother. But his son, Talisin, was his great joy. Falk kept Talisin by his side, trained him up in the lighting skills he knew, lavished upon him all his hopes and love. And as years passed and Talisin grew to young manhood, he was dearly loved by the Celts both for his lineage and for his own high spirits.

‘My brother, Talisin, was the sun of my days, too,’ said the Lady Ann. ‘Throughout my growing years, he was my joy. I saw him seldom, but when he came, then came life back to Cambray. For he already rode with my father and his men on their border patrols, and as the wars continued, so they stayed longer away. But when he returned, he was like some Celtic prince of older times, he and his friends, his companions, young men all. They wore golden torcs about their necks, their hair was bound long in Celtic style, and their red cloaks flared across their horses’ backs. It was my pleasure to keep watch for them, and he would set me before him on his grey horse and ride with me along the stretch of sand and sea below Cambray. Fast he would ride, the spray showering behind, and I would scream out my delight. But he was Norman trained by our father, Falk, and he and his young companions followed Falk, who, in turn, obeyed his overlord, the Earl of Sedgemont.’

We should have explained before who this earl was, Earl Raymond of Sedgemont in England, Count of Sieux in France, overlord to Falk. But listen now. Earl Raymond was Norman too, having come to England with that great King Henry, first of his name. Although having lands and titles of his own in France, out of friendship to King Henry, he had settled in England. Earl Raymond was a stout-hearted and wise lord. Tall and bent with age he bestrode his horse as well as any knight, and his bright eyes below dark brows were quick to pick out injustice or treachery. He long had known Henry, fought with him in France, and when chance made Henry king, Earl Raymond came in his retinue to help him subdue his island kingdom. King Henry gave him lands and the title of earl to do him honour and to tie his loyalty to the crown. For that is the feudal bond, lands in return for military service, loyalty for loyalty. It is the feudal law. Cursed be the man who breaks it. The Earl of Sedgemont then held a great tract of land from the king, towards the western marches. In the eastern reaches of his demesne, he raised the keep of Sedgemont, named after a place he knew in France, well built, too, in Norman style upon the site of an older Saxon fort. The rest of his English lands he, in turn as overlord, gave to his loyal followers on the same terms, loyalty to him, lands for military service. So gave he Cambray to Falk. Their duty was simply this: to keep the border along the western marches at peace. And so Earl Raymond and Falk and all the earl’s vassals did Henry loyal service. For they were of an age, Earl Raymond and his men, knew one another’s minds, and judged Henry as a strong and just king. Until disaster came upon the king, as now you shall hear.

Henry was a lusty man, having fathered many bastard sons but only one legitimate prince, who had died before him, drowned at sea. After his son’s death, they say King Henry never smiled again. Perhaps so. (You shall hear of another man who, when his son was drowned . .. but that’s to come.) After the death of his son then, King Henry thought to wed again, a younger wife to breed up more heirs. When that plan failed, not willing that the English crown should go a-begging, he summoned up his feudal lords and bade them swear an oath to accept his daughter, Matilda, as queen instead. This daughter, known as empress from her first marriage, had recently re-wed a French husband, younger than herself but as ambitious, by whom she had a son, another Henry, who was called Henry of Anjou. Remember his name above all others. Henry of Anjou. You will have cause to know it. Now when Henry the king bade his nobles swear allegiance to his daughter, not once, mark you, but twice, as if he knew in his heart he did the country wrong, there were certain of his nobles who held back, thinking it not fitting that a woman should have the throne. Among these was Earl Raymond. And when Henry in the course of time died, many of these nobles accepted as king instead, Stephen, Count of Blois. Stephen was nephew to the late king, of royal blood then and, as many men avowed, a perfect knight, a godly man well fitted by breeding and temperament to be a just king.

BOOK: Ann of Cambray
2.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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